WatchSonoma Watch

County signs agreement to buy green power


Sonoma County officials announced Wednesday an agreement with a Southern California renewable energy company to provide clean power for seven county buildings, part of a push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tap greener electricity sources for county operations.

The one-year deal with 3 Phases Renewables of Manhattan Beach is also expected to provide the county with cheaper power and result in annual savings of $2,000 for taxpayers, officials said.

The agreement, which the county has an option to extend, will supply about 2,800 megawatt-hours of wind and biomass-generated electricity annually, or about the same amount of power used by 170 homes in a year.

Already, most of the county administrative campus, including 14 buildings, gets power from a county-run $9.8 million, 1.4 megawatt natural gas fuel cell that began operating in late 2010.

The new deal puts the majority of county operations either off-grid or on renewable sources. “Sonoma County continues its leadership in energy sustainability and fiscal responsibility,” Shirlee Zane, chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors, said in a statement touting the deal.

The seven buildings tapping into the new power supply include the North County Detention Facility — an offshoot of the main jail located near the county airport, the Sonoma County Animal Shelter, a mental health facility off Chanate Road and four offices in Santa Rosa and Petaluma. The buildings currently get their power from PG&E.

The switch makes use of a 2009 state law that allows commercial power customers to request direct purchase agreements with energy providers other than their utility.

3 Phases Renewables purchases its power on the wholesale market. The portfolio mix included in the county deal includes about 85 percent wind energy and 15 percent biomass.

The move adds to a 2006 initiative to cut county government emissions and slash regionwide greenhouse gas production to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2015.

About 1.4 million pounds of carbon dioxide, equivalent to about 2 million vehicle miles, could be cut from the county’s annual greenhouse gas emissions as a result of the switch, said Sam Ruark, the county’s Energy Watch program manager.

A study of a separate county move — a bid to form a public power agency, another part of the green-energy push — is due back to the Board of Supervisors in April or May, officials said.

18 Responses to “County signs agreement to buy green power”

  1. brown act Jack says:

    The first thing that anyone should learn is to never believe what people who want to sell you thing tell you about the product they are selling

    The second thing you should know is that staff of any business organization will slant their reports to the bosses the way the bosses want the reports slanted.

    The third thing you want to know is to compare the reports made by the tecnical staffs of the educational systems with the reports of the staff and the sellers of equipment.

    The forth thing you must understand is that all of the figures are estimates as the future can not be assured.

    The fifth and most important is that you have to pay for expert advice, as free advice is worth what you paid for it.

    Challenge everything, as that is your duty, to ensure that you are learning all of the stuff you need to know to determine whether something is a good , or bad, idea.

    I have found that all new ideas are set forth to make money for someone or something.

    If you don’t know what it will cost it usually is a bad idea.

    Except, of course, the atomic power systems.


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  2. GAJ says:

    Once again, why are we doing this when we already have one of the most “green” sources of energy?

    Can’t government THINK practically any more?

    Save the “nice to do” once you’ve actually got a handle on the “must do” like maintaining existing, and crumbling, infrastructure.

    “The Geysers meets the typical power needs of Sonoma, Lake, and Mendocino counties, as well a portion of the power needs of Marin and Napa counties. In fact, The Geysers satisfies nearly 60 percent of the average electricity demand in the North Coast region from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border. The Geysers is one of the most reliable energy sources in California delivering extremely high availability and on-line performance and accounts for one-fifth of the green power produced in California.”


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  3. Lets be Reasonable says:

    Thanks Brett. The natural gas fuel cell sounds like a no-brainer. The methane one is a bit confusing. Are you saying that the County saves 80k a year and also gets 120k a year by leasing the land to the private company running the facility? Thus providing a 200k x 20 = $4 million net over 20 years? Does the $1.45 million increased energy costs make any assumptions about PG&E electricity rates rising over that period, or does it assume flat rates? What would happen if the private company were to go bankrupt or otherwise stop running the plant?

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  4. Jason Valez says:

    The book “Collapse” I read awhile back presented research findings about why some populated areas, mostly islands, collapsed and could no longer support their populations. Guess what the reason was? Not enough volcanoes had erupted to replenish the soil with carbon. Without enough carbon, the land could not support food production in sufficient quantities.

    Carbon dioxide, the new boogyman, is plant food. In greenhouses, carbon dioxide, even when mixed with carbon monoxide can increase plant growth by up to 100%. New studies are showing that plants are happily sucking up the small amount of extra carbon emitted by man’s activites.

    Another new found fact is that excess heat is not being retained in the atmosphere as claimed in climate models but is rather escaping out into space. Heat rises, right?

    To top it all off, only 4-5% of global carbon dioxide is produced from man-made sources. Not only that but global atmospheric carbon dioxide varies by up to 100% of average and those variations track according to temperatures, not whether or not people are producing carbon dioxide.

    The question everyone needs to be asking is why they are trying to scare people with climate models that are clearly erroneous. Do you think they may have a larger agenda?

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  5. Brett Wilkison says:

    Thanks for the question @Lets Be Reasonable.

    We’ve done several stories on the county fuel cells and will be tracking these projects as they move forward.

    The 1.4 megawatt natural gas fuel cell now powering the county administrative headquarters is projected to result in energy savings that would pay off the $9.8 million project in eight years, according to county numbers.


    The 1.4 megawatt biomass fuel cell approved last year for the county Water Agency near the airport has a riskier projection. County estimates show it could result in a $1.45 million increase in the agency’s energy bill over the 20-year agreement. Only in the 16th year of the project would it equal the wholesale power rate and thereafter begin to be cheaper, the projections showed.

    The Water Agency said other changes, including annual labor and operational savings of $80,000 from the project, the plant operators’ yearly $120,000 lease payment and the benefit of a locked-in power rate would translate into a $2.55 million net gain for the agency over the 20-year period.

    Here’s our story on that one: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20110621/ARTICLES/110629888

    Brett Wilkison
    PD Staff Writer

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  6. Social Dis-Ease says:

    I love the geyser comment by RAJ.
    Shananigans with utilities, water, private property are all part of the ICLEI model.
    It’s all about control and deliberately crashing us personally and civically.
    Applying common sense will just give you a headache.

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  7. Steveguy says:

    Maybe they should contract with Solyndra.

    Oh wait.

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  8. GAJ says:

    From the article:

    “The one-year deal with 3 Phases Renewables of Manhattan Beach is also expected to provide the county with cheaper power and result in annual savings of $2,000 for taxpayers, officials said.”

    $2,000 in savings? Don’t make me laugh.

    How much were County employees paid to study and implement this plan? It has to be tens of thousands of dollars if not more.

    There are far more basic things County employees and Supervisors should be focused on for crying out loud.

    Stop rearranging the furniture on the Titanic…or should I say, the Costa Concordia!

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  9. Reality Check says:

    “3 Phases Renewables purchases its power on the wholesale market. The portfolio mix included in the county deal includes about 85 percent wind energy and 15 percent biomass.”

    That sentence screams for some explanation. Wind power is not sufficiently reliable to provide 85% of the power the county needs. It’s not close. The gap is larger than the 15% coming from biomass.

    Who and what is filling that gap? Likely, there’s a backup fossil-fuel generator somewhere that will be humming away on many days. Did we count those emissions? Don’t bet on it.

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  10. Its Our Constitution says:

    Doesn’t this make all of us feel better? Think about it. Green, fresh, clean power. The dream of cooking oil and wind making electricity for the county offices is fitting for the hot air that the supervisors bring to the party.

    The Press Democrat should look into the real costs of this shame instead of endorsing boondoggles the county constantly comes up with.

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  11. brown act Jack says:

    If you have ever wondered how people have been deceived by entrepneurs, just read this new artice.

    Here are the important words:
    “3 Phases Renewables purchases its power on the wholesale market. The portfolio mix included in the county deal includes about 85 percent wind energy and 15 percent biomass.”

    What, they are purchasing the power on the wholesale market, in competition with PGandE and then turning around and selling it to the County at a profit, and then have to pay PG&E to tranport the power to us?

    And that is cheaper than buying it from PGandE?

    Are they crazy , or does someone have a piece of the action?

    No investigative reporters on the PD?

    or do they just reprint stuff off the web?

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  12. Graeme Wellington says:

    If Green Power really was cheaper, it would be plentiful by market forces alone and we all could and would utilize that alternative.

    The only possible explanation here — if it really is cheaper — is that the green power company is getting MASSIVE government subsidies. One way or another the taxpayer is paying.

    Economic laws CANNOT be broken. A free lunch like this is simply impossible.

    Again, where is the critical thinking element of the Press Democrat reporters? Are we to believe that the writers on our local paper just didn’t think to ask the obvious questions?

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  13. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @Brett – Follower has a point. Can you tell us what the energy costs had been prior to the $9.8 million Fuel Cell, and compare that to the current costs (natural gas, maintenance, labor) are, so we can calculate a real ROI (as opposed to Follower’s guess)? Thanks.

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  14. GAJ says:

    Isn’t the Geysers the largest geothermal energy complex in the entire WORLD!

    Doesn’t that power get used in Sonoma County or does it magically disappear?

    Fix the darn roads and stop chasing windmills!

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  15. NoQuarters says:

    My neighbor wanted to know how i was getting eggs from my chickens without a Rooster
    I think this pretty much sums up a lot of sonomains

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  16. Follower says:

    $9.8 Million Dollar Fuel cell powering 14 buildings? How long before the Fuel Cell is paid for?
    Let’s see… if the monthly PG&E bill for those 14 buildings was $10,000.00 a month, it will take over 80 YEARS to break even. Assuming 80 years of “Natural Gas” is FREE and there are NO maintenance costs to keep the Fuel Cells running for over 80 years.
    Your tax dollars at work!

    Green power…
    If you haven’t been down Hwy 12 between Fairfield & Lodi lately, you should drive out there & take a look at some “Green Power”. The mammoth windmills (imported from Europe) are really quite impressive!

    Unless you’re out there on a day like the last time I was there. Then it’s a little depressing.

    Millions & millions of TAX dollars worth of giant European windmills sitting perfectly still! FOR 2 DAYS STRAIT (that I know of)

    If Solar & Wind is the future and the Climate is CHANGING… how do you know that the change in climate isn’t going to CHANGE were the wind blows & the sun shines?

    Liberalism truly IS a “Mental Disorder!”

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  17. EPA? says:

    State of the art greenhouses intentionally introduce carbon dioxide to stimulate growth.

    Man induced global warming (except that which might be induced by globalist ‘weather modification’)
    has been debunked, identified as the contrived junk science that it is.
    By the most qualified experts on the planet, thousands of them.

    The purpose of the lie is to use it as an instrument of oppression.

    Do you think the folks that engineered the BP oil spill disaster.
    The ones that spray the earth with nano particulate containing tons of aluminum, barium, strontium, lithium, sulfer hexafluoride, etc., care?
    What about the ph of our soil?
    What about our mortality?

    These are the folks preparing your ‘green’ Kool-Aide ‘progressives’.

    It’s not about green, it’s about control.

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  18. j galt says:

    This is a joke! Right?

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